Century Marks

Century Marks

Good out of bad

 Pastor Terry Jones's plan to burn the Qur'an in Gainesville, Florida, last fall sparked outrage around the world. But Jones's stunt ended up deepening interfaith ties in Gainesville. Dennis Schuman, a leader at P'Nai Or Jewish congregation, says Jones "probably did more to cement interfaith cooperation in Gainesville than any of the rest of us have accomplished in our entire ministerial careers." Larry Reimer, a United Church of Christ pastor in Gainesville, notes that an interfaith coalition was formed to plead with Jones not to burn the Qur'an, and as a result 25 religious communities agreed to share common readings at their worship services on September 11–12. A monthly interfaith clergy lunch continues to be held, and interfaith study groups have sprung up. Ties have been forged between Muslim and Christian congregations, and plans are being made for Jews, Christians and Muslims to jointly sponsor a House of Hope built with the help of Habitat for Humanity.

Shared burden

During a particularly bleak time in apartheid South Africa, theologian Peter Storey visited an Anglican convent outside Pretoria and discovered that the sisters maintained a 24-hour prayer vigil on a rotating basis. One sister explained, "You church leaders have a big job to do, and you're al­ways so busy that we wonder whether you spend the time you should in prayer. We try to carry some of that load for you." Although she had never met Storey, she said she knew him quite well. "Your name comes up every day be­tween 5:00 and 6:00 p.m." (Weavings, 26:2).

Truth telling

Emory University has issued a statement acknowledging its involvement in slavery. In the pre–Civil War era, every president of the Atlanta university and most faculty members were slave owners. The school used slave labor in constructing buildings. The university also mounted theological arguments against abolition and played a major role in the schism of the Methodist Episcopal Church over the issue of slavery. In 1902 it ousted a professor for publishing an article on the horrors of lynching (InsideHigherEd.com, January 25).

Foreclosures

Nearly 200 religious buildings have been foreclosed since 2008, compared to eight in the previous two years and close to none in the previous decade. Most of the financing problems have occurred with independent congregations. Many of the troubled church facilities are in California, Florida, Georgia and Michigan, states with high rates of foreclosures. Banks generally have been reluctant to foreclose on houses of worship, which are traditionally viewed as good risks because of the weekly cash flow from contributions and the moral compulsion many churches feel to pay their debts (Wall Street Journal, January 25).

Course correction

Until she had children of her own, English professor Paula Marantz Cohen prepared rigorous syllabi for her courses and modeled them after courses she had taken. Her children taught her to consider how students would respond to what she was requiring. Would it intrigue, amuse, annoy, anger or bore them? She would have been happy with any of these responses—except the last (American Scholar, Winter).